Just how effective social networking for groups and communities? Let’s take a closer look as we delve into a few studies show how we actually benefit more than you think.
Guest Post By Susan Wells
You’ve heard it time and again, on the news, from grouchy parents and teachers, even so me kids themselves that social networking sites like Facebook are just a waste of time, that so many people spend so much of their lives on the Internet and that “real” socializing no longer occurs.
Interestingly enough, though, several studies show that groups, communities and organizations benefit substantially from having and maintaining an online presence.
The Pew Internet and American Life Project, an on-going research project that has compiled an impressive and diverse array of data about how the Internet impacts our lives, determined in a study that groups substantially benefit from the “social side of the Internet.
The study asked several questions to 27 groups. The groups represented a wide variety of specific goals and interests, including religious groups, social advocacy groups, political groups, and recreational groups.
Of those surveyed (both Internet and non-Internet users), 68% of respondents believed the Internet had a major impact on their ability to communicate with members of their group, 62% believed that it had a major impact on their ability to draw attention to an issue, and 59% believed that the Internet had a major impact on their ability to organize activities.
Of course, these figures represent only general beliefs that a group of people hold about online activity. But how effective has the Internet proven for really accomplishing the goals of groups and communities?
The same Pew study asked another set of question that may be more helpful in shedding light on this question. The survey culled a set of respondents, and asked only those who successfully accomplished something through their group or organization. Of this set, they were asked how big a role did the Internet play in getting their goal accomplished.
For those who had successfully elected a candidate into office, 53% said the Internet played a major role. For those who had raised awareness about an issue, 46% believed the Internet was a major force. For those who had raised money for their cause, 33% that the Internet was a main driver.
Although these percentages are somewhat lower, if we take the same goals and look at how much respondents believed that the Internet played at least some role, the figures change?for electing a candidate into office, 84 the Internet played some role, whether major or minor.
For raising awareness about an issue, the percentage was 82%. For raising money for a cause, 69% believed the Internet had something to do with it.
Of course, the Internet, as a relatively new technology, has not completely immersed itself in the culture of all communities and organizations that aspire to achieve specific goals. As such, how effective social media tools will be in actually accomplishing substantive aims is yet to be seen.
We all know that it has had a major impact on recent political elections , and we do know that the Internet is one medium that most quickly disseminates information about pretty much anything.
Even if social networking and media has a long way to go, it is well on its way to being the most important method for achieving our goals collectively.
How has social networking affected your groups or communities, or has it?